A Modern solution to tooth loss
As a young dental student some 30 years ago, I was told about a new procedure on the horizon—it was still in its infancy, but it had the potential to revolutionize dentistry. My classmates and I kept our eyes and ears open.
Well, as predicted, dental implants became a part of modern dentistry and are here to stay.
And as I know from my own experience, they’re a godsend.
Why Choose Dental Implants?
There are many reasons we may lose a tooth and need a replacement—cavities, trauma, fracture, gum disease, failed root canals, or just never developing an adult tooth. Replacing a tooth is important because an empty space can alter your bite—increasing wear and tear on your remaining teeth—and can lead to bone loss in your jaw.
In the past, a tooth replacement was either a removable denture or a cemented bridge. For a bridge, a dentist would cut down the teeth next to the space and make a replacement that’s cemented in place. That’s still recommended in many situations.
But if the adjacent teeth have no or only minimal fillings, then the dentist has to cut away part of a perfectly healthy tooth. And if there’s a problem later with the supporting teeth, the whole bridge must be replaced, cutting out the problem, but also cutting out more of the healthy tooth.
A dental implant may be a better solution to restore the area of the missing tooth to the proper form and function without altering the surrounding teeth.
What Is an Implant?
An implant replaces a lost tooth or teeth with an artificial tooth root, usually made of titanium, which over time fuses into the bone of the jaw.
There are three parts to the implant: the implant (tooth root), abutment and crown. The implant is placed after the broken or diseased tooth is removed and the bone is determined to be healthy and strong enough for it. The implant needs time to integrate into the jaw—three to six months—and your dentist or oral surgeon will confirms when it’s stable.
The next step is to create the abutment, a permanent but removable connection to the implant in the bone. This will be the framework and support the final piece, the porcelain or ceramic dental cap or crown—a beautiful, white new tooth.
How Do You Care for an Implant?
Implants require the same care as your natural teeth—brushing, flossing and routine check-ups. Although an implant can’t decay like a natural tooth, bacteria can still cause gum disease around the implant. It’s very important to keep an implant as well as your teeth as clean as possible so everything in your mouth remains stable and healthy for a very long time.
Remember if you ignore your teeth or implant … they will go away!
What’s the Future of Dental Implants?
With today’s 98% success rate, dental implants will become even more widely available and less complicated as time goes on. Dental insurance, which often lags behind dental research and developments, often pays part of the cost of placing and restoring implants. The cost for a simple implant—$3,000 to $6,000—is comparable to the cost of a dental bridge.
Like many patients, I have a tale to tell. While having dinner with a friend, I took a nibble of an appetizer and felt something crunch in my mouth. Back at my office and a few x-rays later, it was obvious my tooth, in perfect view when I smiled, fractured right down the middle and had to be removed.
Given the severity of my fracture, an implant was the right solution. The implant process, all done with a little novocaine, was pain free, effortless and much easier then I expected.
Today I’m able to smile with confidence and be reminded that a smile is a gift that keeps on giving.
Dr. Smith received her D.D.S. from Georgetown University and did a residency at Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia. She’s a member of the ADA and PDA and a volunteer dentist at Community Volunteers in Medicine in West Chester. She practices family and cosmetic dentistry with her husband, Dr. Carlos Vila, in Paoli, where they’re raising three children. SVDental.com.